Sunday, November 13, 2022

Canada Legalizes Assisted Death for the Mentally Ill; Doctors Call the Law “Unethical” and “Coercive.”

By Judith Robinson

Patients in Canada can legally request a medically assisted death for conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, personality disorder, schizophrenia, PTSD or any other mental affliction under the new Bill C-7. Almost 1500 of the nation’s publicly funded psychiatrists, paediatrians, medical professors and general practitioners have joined an organization to fight the government’s horrific cost-cutting measure.

While Canada has been criticized for neglecting its elderly, through offering inadequate old-age pensions, shoddy long-term care facilities and negligent health care, an even more disturbing trend has recently emerged.

In March of 2021, Bill C-7 passed making it legal for mentally ill adult and adolescent patients to request a medically assisted suicide. The government is currently discussing making it possible for parents and guardians to request an assisted death for children they feel unable or unprepared to care for. A mother in Quebec has already requested an assisted death for her four-year-old with severe disabilities. Some politicians she met with and are sympathetic to her cause.

Medical professionals state they are being pressured to promote assisted death because suicide is cheaper than providing care under Canada’s publically funded medical system. A group of 1,490 Canadian doctors, including medical professors and specialists, calling themselves Physicians Together with Vulnerable Canadians, have publicly expressed their concerns about the situation on their website:
“Medicine… has been transformed into a technical occupation that allows physicians to deliberately end the lives of their suffering patients. Forced participation in arranging and facilitating euthanasia and assisted suicide is now required by certain regulatory colleges…The shock of a sudden illness, or an accident resulting in disability, can lead patients into feelings of anger, depression, and guilt for requiring care – emotions that, with proper support and attention, can resolve over time. The care and encouragement shown by physicians may be the most powerful force in overcoming despair and providing hope. Unfortunately, patients can no longer unconditionally trust their medical professional to advocate for their life when they are at their weakest and most vulnerable. Suddenly, a lethal injection becomes part of a repertoire of interventions offered to end their pain and suffering.”
When Canada passed its first euthanasia law in 2016, the high court ruled that only competent adults suffering from a “grievous and irremediable” medical condition had a right to receive a lethal injection. There were safeguards in place such as a 10-day waiting period to allow the patient time to change their mind and there was an. onus on the physician to provide alternative treatments to euthanasia to alleviate pain and suffering — such as government-funded palliative care programs.

Under the provisions of Bill C-7 patients could request and receive a lethal injection within the same day without ever having been offered any other treatment options. “MAID (medical assistance in dying) has been deemed an essential service under the Canada Health Act and palliative care has not,” the signatory doctors stated. As of March 2023, a Canadian citizen “whose sole underlying condition is depression, bipolar disorder, personality disorder, schizophrenia, PTSD or any other mental affliction” can request a medically assisted suicide if two medical professionals agree.

Psychiatrist Dr. Grainne Neilson, past president of the Canadian Psychiatric Association is struggling “to conclude, with any certainty or confidence, that a mental illness has no prospect of ever improving.” Neilson said psychiatrists will be looking for “a robust, eligibility assessment process” before they will be willing to consider authorizing MAID for their patients. Psychiatrists will want to know that “standard treatments have been offered, attempted and failed, with no other reasonable alternatives.”

Only 28 percent of physicians recently surveyed by the Ontario Medical Association said that MAID should be permitted with sole mental illness as an underlying condition and only 12 per cent said they would support it for their own patients.

“Whether children and adolescents can have legal access to MAID is a complex question that has yet to be fully considered and adjudicated by Canadian society, in Parliament and through courts of law,” according to the Canadian Paediatric Society.

In a paper entitled Medical Assistance in Dying: A Paediatric Perspective principal author Dawn Davies wrote that “governments at every level develop policies and procedures to safeguard young people from possible risks, harms or abuses of MAID, given their unique vulnerabilities.”

Dr. Ramona Coelho, a family physician to marginalized communities and a founding member of Physicians Together with Vulnerable Canadians said that The Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying is currently considering MAID for children. She adds:
“In an increasing number of reported cases, MAID is taking the place of medical treatment and government assistance for those with social, economic and psychiatric issues… How can we keep MAID from being used as a tool to absolve governments of their obligation to provide for those living in poverty, with disability, or with mental illness their equal rights as citizens to health, economic security, and life? That is the question the Special Joint Committee should be considering. But instead, expanding MAID for children is on the agenda.”
An article in The Spectator UK asserts that Canadian authorities are encouraging doctors to adopt MAID in order to save costs. In an article entitled “Why is Canada Euthanizing its Poor?” the world’s oldest weekly magazine disclosed that:
“The old MAID regime saved $86.9 million per year --- a ‘net cost reduction’, in the sterile words of (a Canadian Parliamentary) report – Bill C-7 would create additional net savings of $62 million per year. Healthcare, in particular for those suffering from chronic conditions, is expensive; but assisted suicide only costs the taxpayer $2,327 per ‘case.’ And, of course, those who have to rely wholly on government-provided Medicare pose a far greater burden on the exchequer than those who have savings or private insurance…. There is already talk of allowing ‘mature minors’ access to euthanasia too – just think of the lifetime savings.”
The situation is so dire that the stoic, penny-pinching former head of the Hollinger Newspaper empire, Conrad Black, stepped into the fray writing a protest column in The National Post:
“When a health-care system is insolvent and inadequate, that fact should be admitted and addressed by comprehensive reforms. Encouraging large numbers of people to consent to die prematurely will neither save the healthcare system nor seriously address the profound philosophical and practical implications of vastly increasing the number of unnatural deaths. I believe that assisted dying is sometimes appropriate and a right of the individual involved. But the ennobling and promotion of a vast increase in the numbers of suicides in the guise of health-care reform is a fraud, a secular and ecclesiastical heresy and, in many cases, arguably a crime.”
Dr. Paul Saba, a physician from Quebec and co-chair of the Coalition of Physicians for Social Justice, stated on his blog, “We need to care for people with cognitive impairments — not euthanize them.” Dr. Saba is asking doctors not to perform euthanasia because it “contravenes the legal and ethical practice of modern medicine.” He said that “the government wants to force doctors to do what is illegal and unethical.”

Dr. Coelho, and her cohorts at Physicians Together with Vulnerable Canadians, wrote:
“Our profession has been coerced into facilitating suicide rather than preventing it, for ever-increasing numbers of citizens. We watch in utter dismay and horror at how the nature of our medical profession has been so quickly destroyed by the creation of misguided laws. We, the undersigned, declare that the passage of Bill C-7, if left unchecked, will contribute to the destruction of much more than our medical profession, but fundamentally, of a Canadian society that genuinely values and cares for its most vulnerable members. Canadians deserve better.”
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1 comment:

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